If the big news about the fourth-season premiere of Elementary is that it introduces Sherlock Holmes’s father, the reason I watched the two episodes made available for critics is for who’s playing Daddy: John Noble, from my (and your?) beloved Fox show Fringe (2008-2013).
As the brilliant, troubled Walter Bishop, Noble gave a wonderful performance — two of them, in fact, since he was Walter in parallel worlds on Fringe. Many of us feel Noble deserved an Emmy for the role, and I can only hope that moving to a bigger hit on a network more likely to attract Emmy voters will help Noble’s chances as he moves into Elementary on Thursday night in an episode titled “The Past Is Parent.”
Putting aside my Noble-mania for a moment, the season premiere finds Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) coming to terms with his drug relapse from last season. This hasn’t helped his relationship with the law, and Aiden Quinn’s Gregson has some bad news for Holmes and Lucy Liu’s Watson about their continued employment with him. There’s a multiple-murder mystery, and Holmes gets to says typically Elementary-Holmes things like “Justice is like an orgasm — it can never come too late” (too often, Holmes sounds more like a mildly racy Charlie Chan than like an Arthur Conan Doyle-inspired Sherlock).
The crime-solving is really there for the purpose of keeping the relationships chugging along, and Elementary has done of a good job of moving Watson well past her sober-companion status to achieve co-equal status, while wisely bypassing the potentially deadly are-they-romantic trap. But really, what we (or at least I) am sticking around for is Sherlock’s dad.
He doesn’t arrive until the end of the hour, but it’s worth the wait. Noble’s Morland Holmes (I’m no Holmes cultist, and therefore have no idea whether he’s part of the literary hero’s proper canon) cuts an imposing figure as a wealthy, powerful man used to getting his own way except when it comes to his brilliant, eccentric, unreliable son. And Sherlock feels the same way about his father.
The Nov. 12 episode delves into this even more deeply. It’s usually the case that television procedurals that start concentrating on the heroes’ private lives make the rest of the show go soft — sentimentality creeps in. So far, thanks to the crisp, dry performances of Noble, Miller, and Liu, Elementary avoids that danger quite nicely.
Elementary airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.